From the Editor's Desk

A Call to Writers, Artists...and Bloggers

By Bronwen McShea - Mainz, Germany - 29 November 2011



As of November 30, 2011, Pilgrim is a year old. As founding editor, I can't help but look with some pride on how well it has grown, in a very short time, from being, well, just a twinkle in my eye to being a sturdy toddler, so to speak -- and one with friends in every continent except Antarctica, according to messages we've received and our general tracking data.


When Pilgrim was a newborn, I was hopeful it would come to stand out from the other kids around town . . . So I resisted some pressure to design it as a blog, and instead chose a web format that had a more passive quality, with a quarterly publication schedule, to make it something like a print journal of yore. (I was partly inspired, as well, by examples set by some web-based academic journals which preserve some of the feel and tone of print publications of old vintage.) As a Catholic, I of course have a taste for the retro: Latin, early polyphony . . . LPs, bias-cut garments, great old cars with stick-shifts like the '49 Ford, et cetera. If Pilgrim were a human child, he might be that kid who shows up to his schoolmate's birthday party wearing a bowtie and knee pants. And he'd be told, if he got teased a little by the cute girl in the Dora the Explorer t-shirt or the neighborhood tough from the third grade who writes bad words on the playground jungle-gym, that days like that build character (and that he'd understand when he's older).


But I try not be stubbornly or sentimentally old-fashioned: I'm open to learning from other parents out there. And so, some change is coming for Pilgrim as he -- I mean it -- toddles boldly into Year Two on the web.


The major change, effective immediately, is that we are introducing a more blog-like posting format, and breaking from the strict quarterly publication schedule, for most of our content. We will no longer digitally bind all our new content together in seasonal, quarterly issues, like a print journal. Prose essays, editor's desk pieces, poems, artwork, fiction pieces, reviews, and so on, will be posted item by item, sometimes in bundles of items, as soon as they have been reviewed, edited, and, in some cases still, deemed timely or seasonally suitable by the editors.


Our goal with the quarterly publication schedule was to establish a leisurely, reflective, non-commercialized, and non-newsy atmosphere. And after a year on the web, we are confident now we can preserve the desired atmosphere with a more versatile, blog-like form, one that has the advantage of a more conversational, natural quality -- responsive to the changing rhythms of our lives -- for authors, editors, and visitors alike.


At the same time, we will continue to update our featured artwork and saints' texts -- the highlights of our homepage, one of our distinctive features -- seasonally, and in ways reflective of major transitions in the Catholic liturgical calendar. And we will archive our content, after a time, into bundled, issue form, similar to the four quarterly issues we have published this past year.

Beginning this Advent, we will also be highlighting some of our past content, in the left side column on the homepage.  The new format also allows us more freedom to keep some material on the homepage for a longer period than three months, as well as to repost older material we wish new visitors to the site to notice, and return visitors to be able to access easily or see again in a new light.


The change in Pilgrim's format of course has implications for potential as well as current contributing writers, artists, and poets. I would like, then, to take the opportunity here to issue a personal invitation to them -- to you -- to become an active part of Pilgrim if so moved, if you haven't already, by submitting original work to us. We have an open door policy here: unsolicited prose pieces, fiction pieces, artwork, poems, by practiced as well as aspiring, heretofore unpublished authors and artists are welcome and undergo the same consideration and review that pieces by writers formally connected to the project, or invited to submit work, receive.


As editor of a journal that emphasizes "Catholic experience," I put a special premium on such unsolicited content, because one of my key goals is to put "Catholic experience" up for consideration and discussion, both through critical prose reflections and through creative, artistic expressions, by real men and women, of all ages, from all backgrounds, who have something unique and perhaps very unexpected to say about it, drawing from their own lives and their unique perspectives, both on and in the world and on and within the Church.


The unsolicited submissions that interest us now include, newly, blog-style posts on any topic you think may be relevant to our readers. Such posts will undergo review and editing like longer prose submissions.


If you have ideas, or already completed work, to send along, please send them to our editorial email address, editors.pilgrim@gmail.com, and I or one of our editors will get back to you as soon as possible.


Now that material we accept does not have to wait to be published together with others' work in quarterly issues, and may in some instances be posted online within a few days or weeks, we hope you will feel even more welcome, and encouraged, to submit work than you may have felt with the quarterly format in place.


I greatly look forward to seeing how things may develop for Pilgrim, with our modified format, over the next few months. I hope, truly not so unlike mothers of real children, that it will grow in good and unexpected ways that surprise even me.


Before I close, I'd like to follow up a bit, more personally, on my post from September, in which I discussed my recent move to Germany. Over the next few weeks and months, I will continue to be living rather like a pilgrim myself, spending several weeks in Paris -- one of my favorite cities in the world -- on a work-related trip, and then returning to Mainz in time to catch the end of the famed Christmas markets here, which have already begun and which I can say are rather spectacular. I will spend the Christmas holiday here in Germany, near Kaiserslautern, with my brother's family. (My older brother is stationed here for the U.S. Army, although he himself will not be with his wife and kids for Christmas, as he is serving in the Middle East. Prayers for his safe return home, and that of all servicemen and women around the world serving their country far from loved ones, are much appreciated.)


Finally, I wish everyone at Pilgrim, and who may come to visit Pilgrim in the coming weeks, a blessed Advent and, if I do not have the opportunity to post again beforehand, a happy and holy Christmas. In lieu of a real card (which I would prefer to give out to each friend of Pilgrim, and on nicely aged card stock paper . . .), please accept the digital copy of a drawing I recently did, the "Gloria" piece posted on the homepage. The drawing was inspired by the truly striking sculpted angel, to the right, I encountered a few weeks ago in the cathedral museum in Cologne. He is called, simply, Glockenschwingender Engel, or "the bell-swinging angel," and was sculpted by the anonymous Meister des Glockenschwingers in the late Fourteenth Century.


I have framed my angel with the words of the Gloria, which the angels and saints sing to Our Lord in Heaven, together with us who sing it at Mass. But when I look at the sculpted Glockenschwinger, I also think of the opening lines of Wesley and Whitfield's lovely Christmas hymn, which I now leave you with:

Hark! The Herald Angels sing,
"Glory to the new-born King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled!"
Joyful, all ye nations, rise.
Join the triumph of the skies.
With th' Angelic Hosts proclaim,

"Christ is born in Bethlehem!"


Hark! The Herald Angels sing,

"Glory to the new-born King!"